St. Clairsville repeats as Class 4A soccer champion
WELLSBURG — Nate Thornburg made a decision to come to St. Clairsville as a sophomore with games like Saturday’s OVAC Class 4A championship in mind.
Actually, the talented junior probably couldn’t have written a better script than what he saw occur Saturday morning at Brooke Memorial Stadium against Beaver Local.
Behind two goals from Thornburg, including the game winner with less than seven minutes to play, the Red Devils pocketed their second consecutive OVAC Championship and fourth in school history by virtue of a 3-2 victory against the Beavers.
“Scoring that (final) goal means a lot, but the key was the fact that we stuck together as a team,” Thornburg said. “We were able to get it done and that’s all that matters.”
The Red Devils (8-0-2) certainly had to earn the right to hoist the trophy as Beaver Local (7-3-1) shot out to a 2-0 lead in the opening 10 minutes of the game thanks to a pair of goals from senior Chase Flati.
He struck first just 1:45 into the match and then almost eight minutes later, he got behind the Red Devil defense and tickled the back of the net for the two-goal lead.
“I was really bummed out watching (Beaver) score those first two goals,” Thornburg admitted. “But, I knew there was a lot of time left and we just had to pick our heads up and we’d be able to come back.”
The Red Devils began their comeback just under three minutes later when Thornburg weaved his way through several Beaver defenders en route to the goal.
That goal seemingly led to a huge exhale from the entire St. Clairsville sideline.
“The boys never let up after we got down,” St. C. head coach Jeff Roberts said. “When it was 2-0, I was thinking ‘this can’t be happening.’ We’d been preparing (for the OVAC title game) since June, basically, and talking about this day, so to fall behind that quickly was a little nerve wracking.”
Roberts admitted that at 2-0, he felt the next goal in the game — regardless of which team scored it — was “crucial.”
“Getting it to 2-1 was a game changer,” Roberts said.
With still 22:21 to play in the first half, the Red Devils had squared the match after Caden Stout lofted a shot over the Beaver keeper’s head from what appeared to be an impossible 180-degree angle.
The way that the Red Devils climbed back into the game didn’t surprise Beaver Local head coach Joseph Zirillo.
“We knew we’d have to play 80 minutes because (St. Clairsville) is a good team,” Zirillo said. “We were taking what was given to us and scored early, but we knew we’d have to buckle down on defense.”
The score remained that way for the remainder of the half and had the looks that it could be headed to sudden-death overtime, but Thornburg had other ideas.
Beaver turned it over and Thornburg found himself with basically a one-on-one situation with the keeper and got the shot past him.
“We were able to pounce (on that loose ball) and Nate was able to kind of chip it past the goalie,” Roberts noted. “The feeling out mode kind of went their way at first and then we got some momentum. But, it was just a battle throughout. Beaver is a great team.”
The win improves the Red Devils to an impressive 8-0-2.
Though disappointed with the loss, Beaver Local head coach Joseph Zirillo believes his team and the Red Devils could clash again.
“We’ll bounce back,” Zirillo said. “We’re an experienced, good team. I am sure we’ll see these guys again, and hopefully, we’ll have better luck.”